Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

One of the games I picked up in my vacation was the recently released The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by Reiner Knizia, published by Cryptozoic. The game box said "1 to 4 players," which drew my attention. There are some informative reviews at BoardGameGeek and I thought it would be both an interesting solo game and something to attract new gamers.

Essentially, this is a cooperative game where players roll dice to complete goals on the board. This has led to comparisons with Elder Sign, although I am not sure yet about how close the two games are. Dice may be allocated to goals and unallocated dice are re-rolled once. Players also have two types of cards they may spend to complete goals: company cards represent the dwarves and Bilbo and may be recovered in some situations. Resource cards are gone when used. Failing to complete any goal pushes you towards losing the game. Finishing all the goals on the two game boards, which are played sequentially, is required to win. There is a sizable random element in the roll of dice and in event cards that are drawn at the beginning of every turn but the game still offers significant choices such as which dice to allocate or re-roll, when to spend each resource and which goals to complete first.

My first solo game ended very quickly, as I was too stingy with my resources and lost the game while completing only four goals on the first board. On my second game I managed to get to the second board, but lost the game with two goals to complete. Lesson learned: the card that allows you to ignore an event is a very important resource! I finished my third game, with a total of 18 victory points -- although it felt like I was going to lose again with a couple of goals to complete.

I liked my first solo matches of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It is easy to forget to draw an event card every turn as you are considering your options. Now I have to play this with more players to see how the cooperative aspect of the game works, especially regarding the use of the shared resource cards. I am also curious to see how the expansions will work with the base game.

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